I spent two full days going to a lot of rooms but will only write about the top few I felt were standouts. This is my personal opinion.
MAGICO ROOM: I got into Las Vegas and the first room I wanted to hear was Magico because of all of the write-ups. Well disappointing would not be the right word to say the least. The room was just overrun with people and the Q3’s just sounded like most other speakers. The next day I came back and there was less of a crowd, but the same reaction for me. There were plenty of other speakers that sounded better then what I was hearing BUT WAIT. In my mind I thought can I be so wrong, so I headed to the Solution Amplifier room where they had a pair of Q5’s and only me in the room with the gigantic Solution amplifiers. WOW, WOW what clean inner detail, by the book response and a nice bottom end. If the Q3’s sound like this with a little less bottom end, it is clearly a top level speaker, but the room and numbers of people kind of messed that up. They were ultra impressive to say the least in this room with this amplifier. I knocked my knuckles on the side of the cabinet and it is like a solid aluminum billet. If you see the Solution in person, it is about ten times bigger in person. Analytically correct speakers.
LAMM ROOM: They had the Wilson Alexandria set-up with the Lamm ML3 , 140,000 amplifier. I have heard 4 Alexandria or Max systems and non have grabbed me, but this one had good space between, large sound field with very nice bass. They had Neil Young on and he was right there in the room. I could have listened to this set-up for quite a while but with the speaker costing 160,000 and the amplifier at 140,000 there were others to choose from at less then half the price. Analytically correct speakers.
VTL ROOM: They had the VTL450 and the Pioneer TAD-r1 setup and this was different from the Lamm and Solution/Magico room. This speaker was just totally warm and beautiful to listen to. In many way the opposite of the other two rooms. Violin was smooth with a very nice bass line. These are speakers that you cuddle up to a warm fire and get sound that is just totally there with warmth. I think a lot of this had to do with the VTL amplifier which is now balanced and had all of the new updates. I then went to the TAD room to get another listen to these speakers in another room and other amplifiers. Big sound, not that warm, still top level sound but not nearly as good as when the VTL amplifier was running things. Analytically correct speakers that have warmth and listenability with no detail sacrificed.
SOUNDLAB ELECTROSTATIC ROOM: Last year I was in this room and the sound was good, big but with lots limitations when they used the lower priced model. This year was just a blow away sound in every sense. They had the new Majestic 845 full range speaker, which I kept wondering how they got it into that small of a room along with an Atma-Sphere OTL amplifier. First of all the bass out of that speaker was the most true of any and I mean any speaker at the show. Smooth with no crossover or different sound from multiple drivers. It turns out there is no crossover in this speaker. Think of it like the Wilson system if you only had one driver that had the full range. Its delivery was very fast and just there. You have no idea how fast and accurate bass can be. Think of this speaker like a very large Quad. In my lifetime I have had a few of the quad speakers but always had to supplement the bottom end with non integrating woofers, but not here. The rest of the system physically just disappeared when listening. I was staring right at the speaker just a few feet away and could not sense any sound coming from the panels. Voice was perfect, again with no crossovers or different sized drivers the sound was smooth. No beaming on the high end at all but again the actual speaker just disappeared. It painted a three dimensional picture for you with space between instruments. Keep in mind this room was a little small for these speakers and they also needed more amplifier power. The rear of the speakers reflections were unnoticeable. This speaker had it all in spades with smooth sound, accurate without being at all analytical, bass that was faster then any cone at the show. On top of that the sound just enveloped you with ease of listening. I listened to many songs but one was with guitar pickers music. You could have just reached out your hand and touched them.. When you added up the cost of this system between just the speakers and amplifiers, it was about 240,000 less the nth Lamm room with better sound.
QUAD ROOM: After leaving the Soundlab room I headed to the Quad room. I was in the sweet spot for quite a while and it brings you back to all of those great hours of listening to Quads over the last 20 years. These are great speakers for a very small personal system and have a better sound then a majority of the cone speakers in many ways. The problem now came with the Soundlabs sounding so full, the Quads sound small, no weight and a smaller soundfield. Kind of like driving a Ferrari and going back to a VW bug. Both are good cars. All the limitation of my previous quads were still there in the current 2908 on display while the Soundlab just had the size and HP. In total the Quads are still a treat, but compared to the Soundlabs it would be hard for me to go back.